|Fast Break: Celtics complete sweep of Knicks||04.24.11 at 6:16 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Bring on the Heat. It got more hectic than it should have in the fourth quarter as the Celtics almost blew a 23-point lead, but all that matters is that they survived in Game 4 of their first round playoff series and escaped with a 101-89 win over the Knicks on Sunday.
The win completed the sweep, their first since the 1992 season when they brushed off the Pacers in three games. It also allowed them at least a week worth of rest before they start their semifinal series with Miami (assuming the Heat take care of Philadelphia).
The Knicks series is over. Every game except for the third one had its anxious moments, but the Celtics did what that they had to do and made progress along the way. Here’s how they closed it out:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo at his best: Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised eyebrows before the game when he wondered aloud how Rajon Rondo would look if he played for Minnesota, instead of on a team with three future Hall of Famers. No doubt word was relayed to Rondo about the subtle jab, but whether it bothers him or not is a different story. “He doesn’t bring it up a lot,” Doc Rivers said in response. “It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”
Whatever the case, Rondo went right at the Knicks from the outset. He went strong to the basket even when he didn’t have the numbers and made solid decisions with the ball. He also pulled up for jumpers in transition and drained team. How would Rondo do with a bad team? It doesn’t really matter because he’s the right point guard for this team.
The bench comes alive: For three games the Celtics played shorthanded. Their second unit was no unit at all, but in Game 4 that all changed. Glen Davis made four of his first five shots and put up 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. Nenad Krstic scored inside — his first made field goals of the playoffs. Delonte West brought his usual tough defense and Jeff Green was aggressive on the post and putting the ball on the floor. The Celtics had a six-point lead after the first quarter. They led by 17 at the half. Credit the bench, which will be a major part of the next rounds of the playoffs.
The second half? Not so much, but at long last the play of the second unit was a positive development.
De-fense, De-fense: In the building where the chant took on a life of its own, the Celtics clamped down defensively in an impressive, and overwhelming, performance. Carmelo Anthony started hot, making five of his first nine shots, but he was the only threat and the Celtics eventually cooled him off too. Amar’e Stoudemire was clearly not himself, missing his first eight shots. Outside of Anthony, the Knicks shot a woeful 6-for-34 in the first half. Even with him they still made just 28 percent in the first half.
And then the second half happened …
WHAT WENT WRONG
Third quarter letdown: It was bound to happen. After dominating the first half and taking that into the opening minutes of the second half, the Celtics displayed every bad habit that has marked the last two months of the regular season. They held the ball on offense, didn’t get back in transition and didn’t close out on shooters. The Knicks sliced an 18-point lead down to 10 and made the fourth quarter way more interesting than it needed to be.
Careless turnovers: These are the Celtics we’re talking about. Turnovers have been a problem forever with this team and they reared their head in the fourth quarter. Really they were a function of all the bad offensive habits the Celtics developed late in the year — holding the ball, waiting too long to get into their sets. They may be playing with an extra sense of urgency during the playoffs, but teams simply don’t become something they’re not overnight and the Celtics’ turnover problem will not go away any time soon.